Saturday, October 4, 2014

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I rather dislike zoos.  I am still refining my viewpoint on animals in captivity, but a zoo is currently at the top of my do-not-patronize list.  When I was a kid, I looked forward to field trips to the zoo because I enjoyed seeing and learning about the animals, but ever since I was an older child, I've had particularly negative feelings towards zoos because I disliked seeing animals behind bars, spending all day in cages and being pointed at by spectators.

But an abandoned zoo without any animals... that sounds like a zoo worth exploring!

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I first learned about this abandoned attraction after watching a Tom Explore's Los Angeles's video of the Old L.A. Zoo (Tom Explores Los Angeles is a great resource for tourists and Angelenos who want to learn a bit of history and discover cool sites in L.A.).  The Griffith Park Zoo opened in 1912 with fifteen animals.  In 1966, Griffith Park Zoo closed, and the animals were transferred to the new Los Angeles Zoo (which is also located in Griffith Park).  The old animal enclosures were left as ruins in what is now a hiking and picnic area.


Finding the Ruins

The Old L.A. Zoo is located in Griffith Park and is notated on Google Maps.  I chose to park in the upper lot behind the Merry-Go-Round.

The only trouble I ran into is that at the time I was there, people were setting up for some sort of haunted Halloween trail, and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to walk through or around them.  Honestly, I think the set-up of the Halloween trail when I was not anticipating it was creepy enough... I can't imagine how the actual trail could possibly be any spookier.

Imagine coming to the park in the middle of September, not expecting anything, and suddenly walking by this...

Griffith Park

Further up the trail, closer to the Old L.A. Zoo, they were building some sort of large structure, and though I cannot confirm the specifics, I am certain that their construction procedures were not meeting OSHA standards. I was not about to walk underneath that death trap they were erecting, so I had to cross over a little stream to finally get to the zoo. The Halloween set-up crew was really an annoyance.

The L.A. Zoo came up on my right, quite unexpected. I wasn't the only person there to check it out, and I wasn't the only person who'd brought a DSLR. Call me selfish, but I wasn't thrilled about sharing the zoo with an incredibly affectionate couple of which the boyfriend was doing a photoshoot of the girlfriend. Every time I tried to get away, there they were on my tail!

Once held a cage, now a bike rack... re-purposing at its finest.

Repurpose.

Exploring the Old L.A. Zoo

While some cages are locked, several of them have been left open, and you can actually go inside and walk around.

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I like how the following image illustrates "nature v. man" and "man v. man". The zoo, built by man, was left to decay. Nature is reclaiming it as the vines creep up the sides. Man is defacing it... or depending on how you look at it, claiming it through spray paint.

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Further down are the large animal habitats.  I entered from behind.  They were surrounded by a chain-link fence, but the fence had been cut open in several places, so I snuck inside...

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I was sad to see that hoodlems with spray paint had taken over the exhibit since I had seen the photos that are reference in the Griffith Park Zoo Wikipedia Article were taken.  In the Wikipedia article, it said that the animal exhibit had been converted into a picnic area, but it looks like that is no longer the case...

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I didn't think of the zoo as haunted... wasn't worried that I was going to run into the ghost of a rhinoceros. Sure, perhaps an animal died there, but all of its inhabitants were moved to the New Los Angeles Zoo when the Griffith Park Zoo closed.  Still, I felt a wave of uneasiness as I explored the abandoned exhibits. (Which could have been attributed to my earlier encounters with the creepy Halloween installations.)

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Mostly, I was really worried that I was going to run into an unsavory character.... like one of the spray paint kids.... or worse.  Definitely not a place I'd want to be at after dusk!

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Griffith Park

Signs do not deter hoodlems...

Griffith Park

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

The animals may have been stuck in tiny cages, but I guess at least they had a great view...

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Shadow of a ghost! Wait, that's just me...

Old Los Angeles Zoo

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I hope that's fake blood...

Old Los Angeles Zoo

I don't have a good scale figure for these photos (perhaps I should have asked the affectionate couple), so in case you couldn't tell, these cages are tiny. And judging by the width of the bars, they held relatively big animals.

Old Los Angeles Zoo

You're probably reading this right now and thinking, "How inhumane. What archaic times!"

Old Los Angeles Zoo

"But what a lovely lens flare!"

The visit to the Old L.A. Zoo made me consider... maybe zoos back then weren't so bad. Perhaps the bars are a good thing....

Old Los Angeles Zoo

They are true to their purpose. The bars don't confuse us. They bars don't trick us into thinking that the animals were behaving just as they would in their natural environment... they don't allow us believe that the animals were living happy, content lives. The bars tell the truth.

Old Los Angeles Zoo

At least the Griffith Park Zoo was honest.

Explore it Yourself

The Old L.A. Zoo is located in Griffith Park.  Follow signs to the Merry-Go-Round, and I'd suggest parking in the lot above it.  The entrance to the trail which leads to the Old L.A. Zoo is at the side of the parking lot opposite the Merry-Go-Round.  Do not be deterred by creepy people installing Halloween decorations... walk right on by!

If you at any time find yourself lost, I'd highly recommend getting out your handy-dandy smartphone and searching for the "Old L.A. Zoo" on Google Maps.  It will lead you right there!

Join me for my October series, 31 Days of Los Angeles for more Southern California fun!